Marks education prep: beneficial or ineffective?

 

OPINIONbyRebeccaLi

 

Marks Checks Out

By Julia Mitchell
NEWS Editor


Midway through September, Mercersburg upper-middlers were assigned their SAT or ACT tutor, and handed a hefty binder filled with about 15 practice tests, a deluge of practice problems and test taking strategies, as well as dates for 9-11 50 minute tutoring sessions, beginning either in fall or winter term. In this regard, Mercersburg truly lives up to the name “prep school” through the intensive college prep offered to its student body, an investment in expensive tutoring sessions for every student when most American teens take the test with minimal or no preparation. Although undeniably tedious, these Marks Tutoring sessions raise students scores and decrease the number of times they have to take the test, granting students a distinct advantage in the college admission process and the chance to get the test out of the way as early as possible in order to focus on other parts of their application.

        Students never want to give up their free rotations, particularly for additional studying and schoolwork, but Marks Tutoring is a privilege that pays off if you put in the effort. College counselor Rachel Mallory explains, “If you’re doing the tutoring, doing the Skype sessions but not doing the independent work, you’ll see a marginal benefit. But if you are fully invested in it, then you’ll see a more significant increase. It comes down to what the student is willing to put in, as opposed to just natural ability. Standardized testing in general, the more times that you test, the more familiar you are with the format.” Of course, there is a limit to how much a student can increase their scores. Marks Tutoring aims to raise ACT scores by 4 points from the first test to the second test, but expecting an increase of 10 points is simply unrealistic.

        It is important to be aware of the fact that Mercersburg is pouring thousands of dollars into their partnership with Marks Tutoring, a program now in its third year running. Individual sessions from the company range from $200-400 each, although Mercersburg gets a discounted rate. This opportunity shouldn’t be squandered just because tutoring isn’t an entertaining thing to do.

        Despite its benefits, the experience differs for everyone, as some students are more effectively matched with their tutors than others. Emily Bell ’18 said, “the program helps me for math, and I think that it’s good to have it because you keep taking these practice sections and getting to know what the test is going to be like, but it’s not great. I think [it brought up my scores,] but if it turns out that it didn’t, I won’t be surprised.”

        Mallory asserts that the data collected since the start of the program has revealed the intended results: students are taking fewer test with significantly better scores. After surviving my fall term of tutoring, I can say that putting in the time and doing what my tutor told me to do wasn’t absolute torture. I participated in my Skype calls, did my homework, took my tests, and now I have one thing crossed off the endless list of college preparation.

Misses the Mark

By Will Thompson
NEWS Editor


Let me say before I start that Eddie Turner is a good guy. It’s not his fault.

I understand that Marks Education helps people improve their test scores, but it didn’t help me that much. What it did do was add even more pressure to an already very congested and tiring fall term of my upper middle year. Every week, I had a few sections (sometimes an entire ACT test) to do, on top of the work I had for a number of challenging classes, among which was Andy Schroer’s soul-crushingly tough honors precalculus class. I remember staying up until 1:00 a.m. some nights trying to bang out a fifty-question section of math, a good portion of which I never learned or just hadn’t gotten to yet.

On top of that, my precious free period, that which theoretically gave me the chance to decompress and relax during a stressful day, would frequently be taken up by Eddie Turner, who was amiable and easy-going until I didn’t know some obscure math concept as well as he did, at which point he would look at me either like I was some kind of horrible barbarian or like I’d just insulted his sick grandma. Then he would huff a little and walk me through it. I felt compelled to tell him, multiple times, about how my basic math education was really bad, and he would look to one side, sigh deeply and say, “It’s fine,” as if I’d just knocked over his antique vase.

The worst part, the part that still gives me a chill whenever I think about it, is how many sleep-ins I lost. Over and over again, I heard, “How’s 8:50?” to which I said, “Sure, that’s fine,” even though it’s one of the most horrible things that can happen to a Mercersburg student. If you believe in a deity, sleep-ins are a gift from that deity. If you don’t, just imagine flushing a $100 bill down the toilet. That’s what tutoring during a sleep-in feels like. I must have given up five of those during that fall.

Marks Education did help my ACT score, but compared to the extra work and the free periods I lost, I’m not sure it was worth it. I think I could have done just as well if I had been told to look through an ACT practice test and then ask questions about the math I didn’t know. Now that I think about it, that’s probably what we should do instead: have students take a practice ACT (on their own time, in their rooms) and then ask somebody if they have questions on how to answer questions, rather than forcing them to meet with tutors regularly.

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